As per the 2011 Census, a whopping 72 percent of Indians reside in rural areas, which interprets to over 74 crores of Indians of the total 1.3 billion. However, differences in income, consumption, and quality of life among the rural and urban geographies are quite widespread even today.
More so because, economic illiteracy, lack of employment chances, as well as inaccessibility to necessary facilities like healthcare and education, has crippled lives in the countryside.
Moreover, a report by the National Statistical Office (NSO) shows an increase in rural poverty by about four percentage points between 2011-12 and 2017-18, with the percentage standing at 30.
For this cause, Delhi-based start-up Rural Invest is trying to tackle the urban-rural divide and economic deprivation through a sturdy digital wealth management solution. Founded by four highly enthusiastic students in April 2020, the start-up has developed a mobile application primarily for people residing in rural regions to invest in mutual funds through systematic investment plans (SIPs).
Initiated by Naman Tekriwal, Raghav Sharma, Madhav Sharma, and Satyam Mehta, the fintech start-up provides people from low-income backgrounds to do savings for the future, by channelizing money in small denominations systematically.
In 2017, all four co-founders of the start-up were core members in an initiative called High School Investors, where they assisted high school students gain knowledge about monetary planning and investment options. When they recognized that a large section of Indians was facing a similar obstacle, and had no familiarity concerning the management of money, they decided to help them.
They observed the lack of financial planning among rural households. They were moved by the idea of filling the void with the creation of awareness on investment options, which rural masses are generally unaware of. Their research found, one percent of the village population invested in financial instruments and a mere 0.23 percentage of the same, with the knowledge of SIPSs and mutual funds. That was the decisive point where they laid down the foundation of ‘Rural Invest’ to build a financial saving system in rural families for their secure future.
And the current pandemic of COVID-19 very well justified the objective and need of start-ups like Rural Invest.
Bootstrapped since inception, the start-up is currently in the process of conducting a beta test of its app, for which it is collecting feedback from its target audience — maids, daily wage workers, and drivers in the neighboring areas.
“Initially, people found it hard to believe that by merely saving small amounts like Rs. 500-700 per month through micro-SIPs (Systematic Investment Plans), they will be able to ensure financial stability.” – https://ruralinvest.in/index.html.
Its founders’ vision can be seen in one of their blogs (https://ruralinvest.in/blog-detail.html), which analyses the current trends and safe progression of investment options for people with limited earning.
Rural Invest gives a complete wealth management solution for rural dwellers through its app.
The start-up had layouts to execute a pilot project over five villages in the state of Haryana. But, the welfare project had to be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rural Invest has tied up with Tarakki, a SEBI-registered investment advisor, which is supervising the start-up and its product, also lending a hand in the areas of app programming and development, as well as market research.
At present, Raghav is a first-year Environmental Engineering student, and Naman is studying BBA from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Madhav and Satyam are Class 12 and 11 students, respectively, with an entrepreneurial perspective of the mind.
Expanding financial inclusion amongst the rural masses, Rural Invest is freely available both on Android and iOS. Developed using a string of algorithms, the financial platform assists people to spend in mutual funds based on their risk appetite, investment outlay, and wealth creation goals.
The peculiarity that stands out the most in the app is that it allows the user to spend in direct plans without any third-party agents like mutual fund distributor or a bank, eliminating the obligation to pay commission.
One of its characteristic ‘Zyaada,’ assists invest money in a liquid fund which could be withdrawn using an ATM-linked debit card. The second attribute is that it helps with the long-term liquidity requirements, and enables users to invest in an emergency fund either by SIPs or in lump-sum. Rural Invest puts a small amount of price for the above services, to continue the development of the project without any obstacle of the minimum funding requirement.
Usual plans charge at least one percentage of commission based on the total amount invested each month. In the long- term investment plans, investors land up, giving away a considerable sum of money due to this. Most of the rural masses in India are still facing a lack of opportunities to earn their livelihood. Many others are known to be living with the borrowings from moneylenders. So, every rupee matters to them. Therefore, Rural Invest does not add to their burden with considerable commissions.
The Rural Invest app enables individuals to register on the platform by a simple process. All a user has to fill is key in the name, email address, and mobile number. After that, he/she has to give the PAN card details for e-KYC verification, and subsequently, choose from a variety of risk-classified mutual funds analyzed on factors like age, income, and risk range.
The navigation through the app is pretty easy and user-friendly as it seems to be developed, especially for rural residents. The process of registration is seamless, and investment options have adequate information about all. Overall, the app’s engagement with its users is exciting and has garnered a positive response from multiple people. Currently, they have more than 400 individuals registered, with a total investment amount of over three lakhs.
The app is now ready for going nation-wide and impacting the rural financial system through its ease-to-use & intuitive mobile application. Their aim to provide economic awareness to India’s rural masses and help them access liquidity in times of distress like the COVID pandemic seems to be on track. Thus, making individuals financially independent & potentially improving their livelihood.